Consciousness depends on the function of what part of the brain?


  • While consciousness is dependent on so many varying aspects of brain function, this question is an anatomical one typically intended for Anatomy and Physiology students. It isn’t a question meant to raise concerns over unconsciousness, but actual consciousness. The CORRECT answer to this question is the HYPOTHALAMUS. The hypothalamus is responsible for the timing of the sleep cycle. Its suprachiasmatic nucleus (a biological clock) regulates its preoptic nucleus (a sleep inducing center). By inhibiting the brain stem’s reticular activating system, the preoptic nucleus puts the cerebral cortex to sleep. Naturally, while asleep, we are UNCONSCIOUS.

  • I Think it Resides Primarily In the Parietal Lobes, but Needs to Be “Woken Up”, This Resides In the Brain Stem, See the RAS (Reticular Activating System).

  • What are the relations between consciousness and the brain?
    This question is the famous `mind-body problem’. Though it has a long and sordid history in both philosophy and science, I think, in broad outline at least, it has a rather simple solution. Here it is: Conscious states are caused by lower level neurobiological processes in the brain and are themselves higher level features of the brain. The key notions here are those of cause and feature. As far as we know anything about how the world works, variable rates of neuron firings in different neuronal architectures cause all the enormous variety of our conscious life. All the stimuli we receive from the external world are converted by the nervous system into one medium, namely, variable rates of neuron firings at synapses. And equally remarkably, these variable rates of neuron firings cause all of the colour and variety of our conscious life. The smell of the flower, the sound of the symphony, the thoughts of theorems in Euclidian geometry — all are caused by lower level biological processes in the brain; and as far as we know, the crucial functional elements are neurons and synapses.
    Of course, like any causal hypothesis this one is tentative. It might turn out that we have overestimated the importance of the neuron and the synapse. Perhaps the functional unit is a column or a whole array of neurons, but the crucial point I am trying to make now is that we are looking for causal relationships. The first step in the solution of the mind-body problem is: brain processes cause conscious processes.

    This leaves us with the question, what is the ontology, what is the form of existence, of these conscious processes? More pointedly, does the claim that there is a causal relation between brain and consciousness commit us to a dualism of `physical’ things and `mental’ things? The answer is a definite no. Brain processes cause consciousness but the consciousness they cause is not some extra substance or entity. It is just a higher level feature of the whole system. The two crucial relationships between consciousness and the brain, then, can be summarized as follows: lower level neuronal processes in the brain cause consciousness and consciousness is simply a higher level feature of the system that is made up of the lower level neuronal elements.

    There are many examples in nature where a higher level feature of a system is caused by lower level elements of that system, even though the feature is a feature of the system made up of those elements. Think of the liquidity of water or the transparency of glass or the solidity of a table, for example. Of course, like all analogies these analogies are imperfect and inadequate in various ways. But the important thing that I am trying to get across is this: there is no metaphysical obstacle, no logical obstacle, to claiming that the relationship between brain and consciousness is one of causation and at the same time claiming that consciousness is just a feature of the brain. Lower level elements of a system can cause higher level features of that system, even though those features are features of a system made up of the lower level elements. Notice, for example, that just as one cannot reach into a glass of water and pick out a molecule and say `This one is wet’, so, one cannot point to a single synapse or neuron in the brain and say `This one is thinking about my grandmother’. As far as we know anything about it, thoughts about grandmothers occur at a much higher level than that of the single neuron or synapse, just as liquidity occurs at a much higher level than that of single molecules.

    Of all the theses that I am advancing in this article, this one arouses the most opposition. I am puzzled as to why there should be so much opposition, so I want to clarify a bit further what the issues are: First, I want to argue that we simply know as a matter of fact that brain processes cause conscious states. We don’t know the details about how it works and it may well be a long time before we understand the details involved. Furthermore, it seems to me an understanding of how exactly brain processes cause conscious states may require a revolution in neurobiology. Given our present explanatory apparatus, it is not at all obvious how, within that apparatus, we can account for the causal character of the relation between neuron firings and conscious states. But, at present, from the fact that we do not know how it occurs, it does not follow that we do not know that it occurs. Many people who object to my solution (or dissolution) of the mind-body problem, object on the grounds that we have no idea how neurobiological processes could cause conscious phenomena. But that does not seem to me a conceptual or logical problem. That is an empirical/theoretical issue for the biological sciences. The problem is to figure out exactly how the system works to produce consciousness, and since we know that in fact it does produce consciousness, we have good reason to suppose that are specific neurobiological mechanisms by way of which it works.

    There are certain philosophical moods we sometimes get into when it seems absolutely astounding that consciousness could be produced by electro-biochemical processes, and it seems almost impossible that we would ever be able to explain it in neurobiological terms. Whenever we get in such moods, however, it is important to remind ourselves that similar mysteries have occurred before in science. A century ago it seemed extremely mysterious, puzzling, and to some people metaphysically impossible that life should be accounted for in terms of mechanical, biological, chemical processes. But now we know that we can give such an account, and the problem of how life arises from biochemistry has been solved to the point that we find it difficult to recover, difficult to understand why it seemed such an impossibility at one time. Earlier still, electromagnetism seemed mysterious. On a Newtonian conception of the universe there seemed to be no place for the phenomenon of electromagnetism. But with the development of the theory of electromagnetism, the metaphysical worry dissolved. I believe that we are having a similar problem about consciousness now. But once we recognize the fact that conscious states are caused by neurobiological processes, we automatically convert the issue into one for theoretical scientific investigation. We have removed it from the realm of philosophical or metaphysical impossibility.

  • I’m not 100% sure, and it’s a good question indeed, but I believe it would be in the frontal lobe of your cerebral cortex, seeing as it deals with reasoning, planning, parts of speech, movement, emotions, and problem solving.

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